“One Race, Different Ethnicities” [spoken word]


This is a beautiful piece by a friend of mine, Aisha Monique, from my previous church. She is a wonderful spoken word artist who wrote and performed this a couple of months ago as a way of prophetically processing the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, and hwo they fit into the broader narrative of the Black experience in America. I recently found myself watching it again, and I thought I would share.

Like the biblical book of Lamentations, this is a raw cry from the heart wrapped within the rhythm and boundedness of poetry. So grab some coffee and a quiet place and watch this. Let it sink in and sit with it. And most importantly, especially if you are part of the majority culture, just listen.

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“Everlasting Father”: A Guest Post for Lemonade International


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A year and a half ago, I had the honor of going on a Blogger’s Trip to Guatemala with Lemonade International, a nonprofit that works on the slum community of La Limonada, in Guatemala City. The task for us bloggers from around the country was to spend the week seeing the work they do, living life with the people, hearing their stories, and writing about it on our respective blogs. It was an experience like no other I’ve ever had, and I left it with new eyes for justice, love, community, and what God’s Kingdom looks like in this world of brokenness.

I once again have the privilege of writing for them, and this time it’s for their Advent series. Today, they’ve posted on their blog some of my reflections on the divine name “Everlasting Father”. Here’s a taste:

Imagine a tiny nation in fear. Their leaders have failed them and have abandoned all principles of dignity and justice for the sake of securing the place of the powerful. Their political alliances have ravaged their economy, autonomy, and national security. They still live in the shadows and aftermath of civil war and the meddling of other larger, more powerful nations looking to take advantage of this one, it’s resources, and it’s people–with no consideration of the long-term effects. Most in this nation live in apathy and ignorance of the injustice in their midst. The powerful do not care, the privileged do not see, and the rest just try to survive.

What would this nation do? Where would be its hope? To whom would it lift its eyes?

This is Guatemala. This is La Limonada. But it was also the nation of Judah.

Also, if you’re looking for an incredible organizations for your year-end giving, I cannot recommend Lemonade International highly enough. Nonprofits bring a lot of extra scrutiny and can often bring about their fair share of skepticism (as they should). Is the money being used wisely? Are they simply perpetuating power dynamics and deep injustices? Are they exploiting others’ pain for their own gain?

These are all legitimate questions to have for nonprofits and the work they do, and I am hesitant to wholly trust an organization or suggest them to others.

Lemonade International, however, is one that I completely trust. Their resources, people, mission, and methods are all done with such thoughtful care and attention paid to the web of systemic, spiritual, practical, communal, familial, and economic issues that arise in these environments.

So please consider giving to the incredible work of this amazing organization!

Must-Read: The meteoric, costly & unprecedented rise of incarceration in America [LINK]


I promise, this is the most important thing you’ll read today. One of the many stunning facts: in this report:

“As a result of these trends, black men younger than 35 without a high school degree are now more likely in America to be imprisoned than employed in the labor market”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/04/30/the-meteoric-costly-and-unprecedented-rise-of-incarceration-in-america/

Advent & Hoping for Justice


Massacre-of-innocentsThis is the meditation I wrote that appears in today’s reading and reflection in Liberti Church’s Advent 2013 Prayerbook, which can be downloaded for free.

First, a question.

Think back on the Christmas story. After Jesus is born, when he’s about three-years old, King Herod puts out a decree calling for the death of all infants, trying to kill Jesus. An angel comes to Joseph in a dream and tells him to flee to Egypt to prevent Jesus from dying in this slaughter.

Here’s the question: why flee to Egypt?

If they stayed and Herod killed the child Jesus, wouldn’t that still be the Son of God dying unjustly at the hands of a Roman provincial governor? Why go to all that effort to wait 30 years later for the same thing to happen on a cross?
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Some random, contradictory thoughts on Hell. Discuss.


Rothko-untitled-2Below, you’ll find a random assortment of 30 completely disjointed musings on Hell. Each paragraph is its own statement, in no particular order. This is not meant to be a discussion of where I currently land on this issue. I’d love to just get your thoughts. Respond as you like, below.

(1) In the past 10 to 15 years, the American Church saw a new emphasis on Idolatry as the foundation of sinfulness, rather than “Law-breaking”. I’m starting to see a new re-emphasis on Law-Breaking and Hell as punishment for this. And yet, the “Law” is always connected to God’s Image and Character, and so Law-Breaking is living by a wrong law, or image, and therefore is idolatry. We have an analogy for how a Judge responds to breaking the law, and this leads to the popular view of Hell since Medieval times. But what is the analogy for the response to transgressing an image?

(2) Can any Universalist tell me what the point of missions or Evangelism is in this life, if their perspective is true?
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See the Official Guatemala Blogger’s Trip Photo Essay


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Though I love to take pictures, I didn’t take that many shots when I was in Guatemala with Lemonade International alongside the rest of the team of bloggers there. This was because we had a professional, dedicated photographer with us. I wrote about Scott Bennett and my thoughts on his work before the trip.

Each night as we writers sat down to blog, he’d show us the pictures he took for the day, and we’d fight over which ones we got to use in our posts. He took some amazing pictures, and shared many of the raw, untouched photos with us.

Well, now that he’s had time to dedicate more time and resources to focusing his creative eye on the pictures, he has now released his official photo documentary  from the trip, as part of the site Visual Peacemakers.

This photo essay beautifully captures the essence of our time and the people there as well as (if not better) than the words of us writers. I encourage you to spend some time with these pictures and let their weight and beauty affect you. Then, would you consider joining with Lemonade International in their continuing work in the La Limonada community of Guatemala?
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From Above: What’s better than Tom’s shoes? I’ll show you.


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WordPress’s Photo Challenge theme for this week is “From Above

I have been very proud, up to this point, of not having ever posted an Instagram picture of my feet. I don’t know where that trend came from, but I’ve bucked it for so long. Until yesterday.

That’s when I received the above shoes in the mail.

No, those are not Tom’s, the shoe company famous for its idea of giving away one pair of shoes to a child in a developing country for every pair that is purchased.

Instead, they are Otto’s.

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Death & Dignity: what’s the point?


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Next week I head to Guatemala for the Lemonade International Blogger’s Trip. Having been introduced to this organization, I’ve been following their blog closely, trying to get to know them more and more.

A couple of days ago, they posted about a tragic loss. A member of their school, Herber Giovanni Sandoval, died a couple of days ago at the age of 17. In the conclusion of their post, they said this:

“We are especially grateful to the youth group at Lifepointe Church in Raleigh, NC for sponsoring him while he was still attending the Limón Academy.”

I immediately had the image of the youth group kids or sunday school class at that church who probably spent years following the story of Herber. I wondered how they would feel and respond to this news. How would the leaders help them process this? Would it impact the kids at all or would they be too removed from it?
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Hope of the Earth: a political eschatology (we can all breathe)


November 7th, we will wake up to front pages declaring with finality the results of the American Presidential Election. Most of us will see these headlines and have some sort of emotional reaction (especially those of us that stayed up as late as we could to know the results early).

Depression? Fear? Anger? Injustice? Sadness? Joy? Elation? Ecstasy? Worship? Peace?

I remember after the 2004 election when Bush beat Kerry. Going to a large, urban University dominated by idealistic and passionate liberal youth, the campus was in mourning for the rest of that week. People walked in silence, hugged one another, and I saw a good number of people crying as they resigned themselves to what they felt would be the end of every good thing they’d ever thought about this country.

This election cycle, I was certainly active–probably more so than ever before (especially on this blog, at least). I’m almost certain that I have been blocked from my fair share of Facebook feeds and removed from some feed readers in the past six months or so. I’ve been quite passionate on those few issues that have guided so much of my writing and reading.

But I haven’t lost a bit of sleep over any of that stuff. I’ve been able to enjoy good books and beers, and pipes and peers, without any discussion of politics or debates or elections.
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a word on the effect of Corbett’s budget on Philly social services…


The Philadelphia Inquirer had this front page article today on Governor Tom Corbett’s drastic proposed Pennsylvania budget cuts and their particular effect on social services.

I work for one of the main social service agencies in Philadelphia. I can tell you that these effects will be real, not exaggerated, and felt by everyone (and perhaps even illegal). Is there really no more balanced, thoughtful, or nuanced approach to this?

In a notable quote from the article, executive director of NHS Human Services, Paul Sachs, told the Council committee about how the changes would eventually cost us more, not less:

 

We will see an increase in medical hospitalizations for the types of problems that frequently coexist with behavioral-health problems, such as diabetes, pulmonary, and cardiac conditions, not to mention sensitivity to extremes of cold or hot weather. And, I am sorry to say, we will see more people die whose deaths could have been avoided…. The governor’s budget cuts will not save money. Rather, it is an elaborate cost shift to emergency medical care and criminal justice systems, neither of which is designed to address the core problems facing these vulnerable individuals.

Please contact your local representative and let them know that you want this Commonwealth known for fighting for the vulnerable, and to at least show a little restraint, creativity, and nuance in how it maintains fiscal responsibility.

Posted from WordPress for Android on my Droid X

liberti easter outreach: matching donation running out of time!


1,000 meals + 3 wells in celebration of the resurrection

I have the privilege of being a part of an amazing movement of churches in Philadelphia, seeking to “live, speak, and serve as the very presence of Christ” for the city (I go to the Center City one).

Last year, the churches gave away 1,000 Easter meals to familes in need. This year we’re trying to raise money to give away another 1,000 and to build 3 water wells in Africa

This week (until the end of Saturday), a donor is offering to match any donations up to $5,000.

There’s still a lot more to go to meet that goal. We need people to donate money to help us serve our neighbors in this city. So please donate if you can. Any amount will help. Remember, through church history Lent has been a time the church has given much to these sorts of efforts.

If you can’t give money, and still want to serve, we not only need money for the meals and wells (we’re trying to raise $35,000), we also need people to call families that would like the meals, as well as people to pack the meals and drive them. You can volunteer (and request a basket) at the website.

For more information or to sign up for any part of this initiative, please visit:

http://www.LibertiEasterOutreach.com/

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Ash Wednesday & Lent 2012: how are you observing?


[For those in Philadelphia: the liberti church that meets in the Fishtown neighborhood is having an Ash Wednesday service tonight at 7:30. For those in Center City, I will be going to a 6pm service at the Church of the Holy Trinity right on Rittenhouse park. I hope to see you there.]

It’s Ash Wednesday!

(Here’s the prayer for this Holy Day that millions of Christians around the world are praying today–feel free to join them.)

Lent really is my favorite time of year. And Ash Wednesday is particularly special. We spend these weeks meditating on those ways in which we need God the most, and he meets us in it. As we lead up to the celebration of God dying and rising again, we meditate upon those reasons why he needed to come and do it in the first place–namely, that this world is not what it will be, and God took it in his hands to accomplish what was needed to get us there.
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A Death Penalty Follow-Up


Last week, I wrote a post about the recent case of Troy Davis and how this had inspired me to rethink and reconsider my position on the use of Capital Punishment by the government to punish those convicted of crimes they deemed worthy of such a response. In my attempt to be nuanced, I fear I may have given a wrong impression of where I stand now.

I think some people may have walked away from the post thinking that I believe that the government should have the right to bring the death penalty to bear upon some criminals, but Christians shouldn’t actually do it (or something like that). This isn’t quite the case.

Let me restate what I’m thinking even more clearly and simply: I don’t see a justification for Christians supporting the use of Capital Punishment by the government in any case. 

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Troy Davis, Capital Punishment, & the Death of Conscience


This is a tough one to write. And it’s long. I broke almost all of my personal blogging rules in this, but I just need to get this out. I’ve spent the past two days with this post and it’s central ideas rolling around in my head and even now as I sit to type, I have little knowledge how it’s all going to come out.

Today, for the first time in my young life, I shed tears for a man that was executed at the hands of the State. Two nights ago, Troy Davis was finally executed in Georgia for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer. Questions still abound concerning his guilt and innocence, the politics at play in the various boards and courts that refused to change their minds, and the calcification of a seemingly dispassionate justice system  that renders helpless the voices of those it presumes to protect. This New York Times article perfectly captures the complexity and tension that exists right now over this topic.
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